'Hey, You Around?' is VICE's column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing. Ricardo*, 21, is from Chicago and has been selling weed, wax, cartridges, LSD, and mushrooms to fellow students at his university for the last two years.
Hey, you around?
I just got out of my haircut. What’s up?
So, what drugs do you sell?
Mostly just marijuana, all different types. Aside from just the bud, I sell wax, cartridges, and edibles. Sometimes I’ll pick up some psychedelics like LSD or mushrooms, but that’s just for fun. There's not as much money to be made there in the long run.
How long have you been dealing drugs and how did you get into it?
I occasionally dealt in high school, but nothing serious. It really all started two years ago when I was a sophomore in college. I was tired of spending all my money on pot so I did the math and decided to take the risk and start selling pot.
You advertise on Snapchat. How has the platform changed your business?
For frequent customers I send them a Snapchat of what’s new in stock and give them first choice on what they want. Sometimes people who want to score will contact me on Snapchat because they think it's more low key. Snapchat makes it way easier for me to show people exactly what I’ve got. If I have different strains of bud, I can immediately send people a picture or video on Snapchat of exactly what I have.
Where do you sell from?
I live really close to the university, which makes it a quick walk for most of my customers. I chose to live off campus. Living on campus was not an option if I wanted to sell. I looked around and found the apartment complex where the management appeared to be the least involved so selling wouldn’t be a problem.
I usually have my customers come straight to me in my apartment, because I know and trust most of the people I sell to. I think it’s stupid to meet in random public places and perform some sketchy drug deal. I’d rather have people come inside and chat for a minute while I hook them up.
How do you get new customers?
I don’t actively look for them. Usually I’ll have one of my customers ask if one of their friends can pick up from me, and my business will just grow as I get introduced to more and more friends of friends.
How do you balance selling with studying and going to classes?
It’s a tough balance, but school comes first. I started selling just to smoke for free and now it’s become a lot more than that. I do a lot of my schoolwork at home so I’m available for customers if they need. But if I need to buckle down and finish a paper or study for a test with no distractions, I’ll go to the school library and not answer my phone.
Do any of your customers smoke worrying amounts, and if so do you try and help them or is it just good for business?
I serve to some real stoners who I think are in college for the sole purpose of being able to buy pot from me. I try to help those people out by giving them big discounts and deals that I wouldn’t give any other customers. I don’t sell drugs that are addictive like Xanax, Percs (Percocet), cocaine and that type of shit, because I think that shit ruins lives. There’s not too much that can go wrong with smoking a ton of weed.
Does selling pay the bills?
When I started dealing I was a valet attendant. At the time I thought I was making pretty good money. But once I started dealing I realized very quickly that I’d make way more money on a Friday night staying home and selling than I would parking cars.
Does your mom and dad or family know you sell?
No, my mom still thinks that all my money comes from my valet job parking cars. My sisters, on the other hand, know that I’m selling.
What do your friends think about your job?
Well most of my friends smoke weed, and when they buy from me, I always hook them up with great deals. Deals that I wouldn't give my regular customers. Also whenever my closest friends are over I almost always share my stuff with them for free. I don’t like making lots of money off my friends.
What do customers do that drives you insane?
I hate it when people that I barely know try and ask me for a better deal than I’m already giving them. I charge very fair prices for the stuff I sell and it’s annoying when people try to lower the bar more and more every time. I also hate when customers text me and they’re not ready to shop, they ask if they can pick up four days from now at 6:30 pm. Like WTF I don’t know what I’ll be doing or what I’ll have in four days at 6:30 pm. Just hit me up when you’re ready to buy, don’t waste my time and clog up my messages.
What do you do in your downtime?
I really enjoy the outdoors. I like to go hiking, camping, biking, rock climbing, and just about anything outdoors. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. But I don’t like to go on vacation somewhere and sit by the pool the whole time. I think traveling should be filled with new experiences, because these experiences of different cultures and backgrounds are what keep my life fresh. They take me out of my daily routine and make me reflect on it in a new way. It’s hard to explain but I think anyone who has traveled somewhere completely new could understand.
What subject do you study and what job do you hope to do in future?
I'm studying finance in college now. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do in the future. I plan to work a few years after college and then decide if I’ll go to graduate school or law school.
How long do you think you will sell drugs for?
After college I plan to stop selling as much as I do now. That being said, I have made a lot of connections since I began, and if an opportunity comes my way where I could make a big profit off a quick flip, I’ll make that move everyday. For example if I bought five one-pound bags of weed for $1,200 each and then turn around and sell them all to another person for $1,500 each. Thats $300 profit per pound and if I sell all five at once that’s an easy $1,500 profit for me in one move. All I have to do is make one sale. Sure I would make more money if I piece them out individually or in smaller amounts. But that would take a lot longer and I’d have to deal with more people.
How will legal weed in Illinois in 2020 impact you?
It’s hard to say for sure, but I don’t think that the legalization of marijuana will negatively impact my business all too much. Maybe a few less sales but I think for the most part dispensaries charge too much. Maybe their products are a little superior to what you can find on the street but the prices they charge make it almost not worth it.
Ever had trouble with the cops or dodgy customers?
Thankfully nothing scary has ever happened. But that’s the shitty downside of selling, I always have that worry in the back of mind. I have, however, had people dodge me for months because they didn’t have the money to pay me back for a front I gave them. Now I generally try and stay away from fronting altogether because it’s just a bitch.
*Interviews were conducted over encrypted message and names changed; the interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.